News coverage of terrorism. An analysis of TV reportage on the
terror attacks in Kenya 2002
After the strong criticism
of media reportage on terrorism, especially after 09/11/2001, the theoretical
backgrounds of selected points of critique are to be considered, and another
terrorist incident, the attacks in Kenya on 28 November 2002, will be
examined using content analysis methods.
The aim is to provide evidence on the content and formal attributes of
television reportage of a terrorist incident. For this purpose the focus
is placed on the following three research questions:
1. What news factors play a role in the selection and intensity of the
reportage on the terrorist incident?
2. Is emotionalism used in the reportage on the event?
3. In the reportage on the incident, are there negative stereotypes and/or
prejudicial images of the Islamic and Arab world as the enemy?
The results of the study show expected tendencies, not only in regard
to the attributes of terrorism reportage, but also in regard to broadcaster
convergences and divergences in the dual system.
The news value of terrorist incidents is initially very high, however,
due to various news reporting factors, after the third day an incident
distinctly loses attention in the reportage.
The use of emotionalizing means is empirically confirmed. Not only emotional
language and ways of speaking, but also above all forms of explicit emotionalization
are present. Thereby the suspicion is strengthened that, depending on
the broadcaster, the media to differing degrees take up the mood of fear
associated with terrorist incidents.
A direct portrayal of Islam as the enemy was not detected in the reportage.
However, latently negative evaluation tendencies, as well as negative
stereotypes with regard to the Arabic and Islamic world are present, which
reinforce the negatively stamped image that arose since 9/11/2001. The
mostly narratively stage-managed fixation on Bin Laden und al Qaida is
superficial and neglects possible backgrounds, as well as contextual placement.
Despite the critical voices since 9/11/2001, the called-for change in
terrorism reportage is not taking place to the desired extent. The aspects
that were found fault with then continue to be present, but vary with
On the author:
Nicole Haußecker, M.A., born 1978 in Jena/Thuringia. Studies of media-sciences,
psychology and sociology at the Friedrich-Schiller-University (FSU) Jena
and the University of Leipzig. Master thesis on the media coverage of terrorism
Since 04/2006 doctoral candidate at the FSU, she is presently working on
her PhD thesis on "Tendencies of Terrorism Coverage in TV-News and
their Effects on Recipients. A Time-Series Analysis, concerning the Co-Variation
of Media Coverage about Terrorism and Public Opinion."
Working areas: media- and communications-psychology, news-research, crisis-
and war-coverage; special interest in the relationship between media and
Address: Friedrich-Schiller-University, Department of Psychology, Communication
Psychology Unit, Am Steiger 3, 1, D-07743 Jena (Germany). Website: